Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Guide for Novice Bakers

Many people think that baking is simple.  They get a recipe, follow it and if they don’t have the right equipment or the patience to wait, they often make horrible mistakes.  I’ve had coworkers complain that they followed my recipe to a T, only it turns out that they microwaved the butter and didn’t use the right kind of mixer.  

To make life simple for you, our hungry readers, we’ve outlined some of the most typical blunders that the novice baker makes.

PS. with input from the best baker of all, my mom :)

-Softened butter does NOT mean melted butter... waiting a bit longer for the butter to soften will make the difference between successful and fail cookies, don’t be impatient and just stick the butter in the microwave
-Baking soda and baking powder are NOT the same thing... both are used for a rising effect but they’re not interchangeable. more info found HERE
-Unless specifically stated, do not use ANYTHING straight from the refrigerator.  Let it equillibrate to room temperature (this means eggs, water, milk, etc)
-Let cream heat to just under boiling.  Don’t boil it unless you’re trying to make lumps.
-Never bake anything without greasing the pan first... it will stick miserably and its probably going to be somewhat burnt on the bottom/sides.
-Never completely trust your grandmother’s recipes
-Never bake cookies directly on the baking pan... always use parchment paper or silpat
-Double boilers are important.  Don’t think that using any old sauce pan is an option if a recipe calls for a double boiler. You can however place a bowl on top of a pot of boiling water as a substitute but never use only a sauce pan.
-Never measure liquids and dry ingredients using the same equipment... 1 cup of milk is not equal to 1 cup of flour
-There are different types of sugar... granulated sugar is NOT confectioner sugar, they are NOT interchangeable.  If you are using bakers sugar, sometimes the measurements are different than they are with granulated...sometimes they are not.  Read the package.
-When using brown sugar, you have to pack it. 1 cup of packed brown sugar is very different from 1 cup of unpacked brown sugar.
-Use the exact size of the pan the recipe calls for. If not, you must remember to adjust the baking time or whatever you’re baking will not rise correctly
-There are different types of flour... all purpose flour is NOT the same as cake flour, they are NOT interchangeable
-When the recipe says to fold in a particular ingredient, it does NOT mean to just mix it. Folding and mixing are two completely different things.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Etiquette 101

The Place: Florida
The Time: 2006

I was a young thing, out of college and starting life anew in the brave new world of the east coast.  I had tons of free time and an unquenchable love of desserts.  I also had an unquenchable love of not growing to grotesquely large proportions.  I made several cakes and then brought them in to work, to share the bounty (and the calories).  Here are the reactions that I received.

Person 1: “Oh.” (person grabs cake and eats, no comment offered)
Person 2: “Why isn’t it chocolate?”
Person 3: “I don’t like coconut”
Person 4: “Does it have chocolate?”
Me:(never brought food into that office again)

Not a single person said “thank you.”

The Place: San Francisco
The Time: 2010

A coworker made a large batch of chocolate chip cookies.  She brought them into work and left them on the table in the break room with the qualifier that they were potentially overcooked (it was written on a post-it note).  The next time she returned to the table, the cookies were gone and there was a new post-it note.

“They are also too salty.”

The Place: San Francisco
The Time: 2010

The holidays are a busy time for me since I’m baking snickerdoodles for all my family and friends so it doesn’t help that some of my friends have birthdays right around Christmas which means making something a little extra because I would hate having my birthday and Christmas lumped together. So I make one my friends cupcakes in addition to the snickerdoodles for Christmas. The response....

“The cupcakes were dry and not up to the standard I have for you and the frosting wasn’t whipped enough”

The Place: San Francisco
The Time: 2011

It was Valentines Day and red velvet anything is a common theme during this holiday so I decide to make red velvet cupcakes and give them to all my friends because you know, I am lacking a valentine of my own lol My mom asks if she can take some to work to share with her coworkers and of course I say yes because as always, I make way too much of everything and I’m always scrambling to find people to give stuff to. Next thing I know, I receive an email from one of her coworkers with an attachment to an article listing the “requirements” of red velvet with the implication that I had made red velvet incorrectly.

A- At the end of the day, what irritates me the most is that these people who don’t know how to bake anything and who would probably burn down the kitchen if they tried to bake are one, not thankful that I took the time to bake them something and two, criticize me about my baking. Don’t you think I’ve tasted it before I gave it to you? I would never give anything to anyone that was sub-par. And they dare ask me why I don’t give them anything anymore...

C- Exactly.  I put a lot of time and money into baking things for people.  And I taste-test.  Nothing that’s actually bad makes it into work.  They don’t have to like the food, but they should accept it and not criticize it.  Also, not do what my boss did yesterday and say “Eh, it’s pretty good.”  

Just a note, to those of you who receive free food from others: Accept it with a smile on your face and tell them that it’s awesome unless you have some sort of food allergy.  If you don’t want to actually eat it, throw it away later. 

Connie's Addiction

special blog post just for Connie because she's addicted to these haha but really, how can you resist cinnamon sugary goodness? you can't and these are so easy to make so there's no reason for your house to only smell like cinnamon in december... its ridiculous to wait for the holidays and snickerdoodles lol so lets spread the cinnamon sugary goodness all year round :)

Cinnamon Donut Muffins
-2 cups flour 
-1 tbsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp cinnamon
-2 large eggs
-1 cup  yogurt
-2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
-4 tbsp oil
-1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
-1/2 a stick of butter, melted
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 tsp cinnamon

sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon)
in a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, yogurt, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla
add the dry ingredients to the wet... mix until just incorporated, don't overmix (there will be clumps)
line cupcake pans and fill each one about 2/3 full
bake at 400 for 12-15 min or until a toothpick comes out cleanly

while the muffins are baking, melt the butter (microwaving it is fine) and put it in a bowl large enough to hold a muffin
combine the sugar and cinnamon in another bowl
once the muffins come out of the oven, dip them in the melted butter and then in the cinnamon/sugar mixture
let the muffins cool completely on a rack

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I recently attended a wedding in the Florida Keys (Islamorada, to be specific).  The guest-gift was a bag of delicious key lime cookies.  I knew immediately that my next project would be recreating them.

I started with a basic sugar cookie recipe, but replaced the tbsp of half and half with key lime juice.  When that didn't taste lime-y enough, I added the contents of two more limes (so probably about 1.5 tbsp total juice).

I also decided to add coconut to contribute to the "tropical" flavor of the cookies.  I don't think the originals had coconut, that's just my little twist.

Note to self (and internet) next time, I should try this with pineapple juice and coconut...then add a teaspoon of rum instead of extract.

Key lime cookies
0.5 cup unsalted butter, whipped in standing mixer.
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1.5 tbsp key lime juice
2.5 cups flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp extract (this time I used almond...but I forgot that I have coconut.  If I were to make them again, I'd use coconut)
Handful of shredded, sweetened coconut (This is really a personal taste thing.  If you hate coconut, don't add any.  If you love it, add two handfuls)

Distribute on cookie sheet and flatten.  Sprinkle with sugar and brush with key lime juice.

Bake at 400 for about 11 minutes

In the future, I might add more key lime juice as well as some slivers of white chocolate. I'm not a fan of white chocolate, but I think some slivers of it might add a certain creaminess that these cookies need.